Tennessee 3rd District
Etching its way through the serrated ridges of East Tennessee, with some of the most vivid scenery in the Appalachian Mountain chain, is the river that gave Tennessee its name. From Knoxville, the river cuts through a ridge and then plunges down a long valley to the city of Chattanooga at the Georgia line. There it switches course again, winding around the tabletop Lookout Mountain and then moving into northern Alabama. At the base of the mountain, Chattanooga was just a village when it was a Civil War battlefield. It then became the industrial “Dynamo of Dixie.” Four decades ago, it was labeled America’s most polluted city. But regional political leaders, prodded by influential and civic-minded remnants of its Industrial Age aristocracy, used creative measures, such as a locally built electric shuttle bus, to reduce pollution and to spruce up the city’s scenic river banks. Reduction in ozone levels moved ahead of schedule. With big job cuts at the Tennessee Valley Authority, the region has pinned its hopes for growth more on the private sector, including a large food-service industry. The district is home to both the MoonPie and Little Debbie confectioners. Downtown Chattanooga is the home of the 12-story, well-visited Tennessee Aquarium. At Lookout Mountain, the popular century-old Incline Railway climbs at a 72.7% grade. Nearby are the 145-foot waterfall of Ruby Falls, as well as the rock formations and native gardens of Rock City. Grainger County, north of the Interstate 75 and Interstate 40 split, was the home of President Andrew Johnson and the South’s first paper mill.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of Tennessee includes Chattanooga and runs northeasterly from the Tennessee-Georgia border to the Virginia border, making this one of three Tennessee districts that span the state from north to south. Most of the population is in Chattanooga and the counties around it. Chattanooga is the state’s fourth largest city, but in recent years it has been challenging Knoxville for third place. The city is the fastest growing major city in Tennessee, adding more than 14,000 residents between 2000 and 2008. Volkswagen is building a $1 billion plant there, expected to add more than 10,000 jobs to the region.
The district’s thin strip of land to the north includes Dayton, the “buckle of the Bible Belt” where John Scopes was tried for teaching evolution in 1925 and was defended by Clarence Darrow and prosecuted by William Jennings Bryan, events immortalized in the play Inherit the Wind. Farther north is Oak Ridge, which was secretly constructed in virgin Appalachian forest during World War II to house the nuclear facility that made uranium isotopes for the Hiroshima bomb and is now the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. For years, it did not appear on maps. Politically, this area was split historically, with Chattanooga voting Democratic and the mountain counties Republican. Today, it is solidly Republican, with none of its counties voting less than 57% for George W. Bush in 2004. In 2008, GOP presidential nominee John McCain won the district with a comfortable 62%.